Hastings, NE -- "Amazing! I'm just so excited." Those were the words from Taylor Beacom (FR/Papillion, NE) right after knocking off No. 1 Dakota Weslyan 79-76 on Saturday afternoon inside Lynn Farrell Arena. After coming off two disappointing losses to Doane and Mount Marty, the Hastings College women's basketball team needed to figure out how to win again and did just that against one of the nations best.
"It's pretty unbelievable honestly, not only are they the No. 1 team but we obviously have been struggling lately." Head Coach Jina Douglas said. "We haven't played very well for the last month and a half so for us to come out, play with a lot of energy, a lot of heart, I think it says a lot about our kids and hopefully this will get us going the rest of the season."
Dakota Wesleyan had built a five point lead following two free throws from Sarah Carr to lead 70-65 with 4:39 to go. But just like she had been doing all night long, Beacom connected on a huge 3-pointer to cut the deficit to two with under four minutes to play.
The teams would then trade points with DWU holding onto a 74-72 lead with 1:55 to play. Beacom looked like a cool veteran when Shandra Farmer (JR/Hastings, NE) found her on the right wing as she buried another three for a 75-74 lead with 1:39 remaining.
"We put Taylor (Beacom) in the starting lineup, she's been our best scorer the last month of the season. We've been begging her all year to shoot the ball more and she definitely did that more today," Douglas continued. "She's been getting better and better but with Shandra slowly coming back, she can't be our first option on offense. As much as we want that, she hasn't played for six weeks. She's doing a great job but she's just not quite there so we need another kid to step up and score for us and she did a great job of that."
With the game tied 76-76, the Lady Broncos would turn to its defense to shut down the defending national champions. Following a free throw from Emma Grenfell (JR/York, NE) to give Hastings the 77-76 lead, Sophia Pankratz (JR/Hastings, NE) made the play of the game getting her hands on the ball with Kynedi Cheeseman earning the jump ball and the turnover as the possession arrow favored Hastings. Mackenzie Willicott (SR/Blue Hill, NE) would get fouled and make both free throws to give HC the 79-76 lead with :09 to go.
The Lady Bronco defense would need one more stop and did just that forcing a desparate 27-footer from Carr that found nothing but air as the Hastings players rushed over to its bench to celebrate its biggest win of the season.
"Yeah, you know Dakota Wesleyan is so good in so many things and I don't know how many sets they have but it's just set after set and so we talked about ball pressure and denial," Douglas said. "We can't let them get comfortable out there and I thought we did a good job with it. When you play that way, you get really tired but I thought we fought through it you know we had individual kids step up, especially on the defensive end like Sophia (Pankratz). We put her at the four today, she's never played that, she battled like crazy so I thought we had a lot of kids step up to lead us to victory."
Beacom finished the night with a career high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting including 2-for-4 from downtown. Willicott had a solid night scoring 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting including a perfect 2-for-2 from behind the arc. She also pulled down seven boards.
Hastings forced 18 Tiger turnovers as Grenfell led the way with five steals while Pankratz added two. DWU did out rebound Hastings 42-to-26 but the Lady Broncos held Dakota Weslyan to 41 percent shooting. Ali Smith (FR/Ord, NE) had a career high five assists.
Farmer finished with nine points, Grenfell added eight points and Kaitlyn Schmit (SO/Omaha, NE) finished with seven points.
With the win, Hastings improves to 11-10 (7-8) on the year and will be back in action Thursday Jan. 24 hitting the road to take on Morningside with tip-off set for 6:00 p.m. in Sioux City, IA.